Medical examiner testifies in triple homicide trial

Published 5:05 pm Thursday, October 16, 2014

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA—The jury in a triple homicide trial heard testimony from the medical examiner regarding the autopsy reports of three men found shot in Pelham’s Chandalar subdivision in 2012.

Jon Staggs Jr.

Jon Staggs Jr.

Pelham Police officers discovered Simeon Gilmore, 19, Casey Cumberland, 22, and Joshua Smith, 22, deceased at a residence in the 2400 block of Chandabrook Drive on Sept. 9, 2012. Pelham man Jon Ingram Staggs Jr., 22, was arrested and charged with the three murders later that day.

Staggs is currently on trial before Judge Dan Reeves and is facing seven counts of capital murder.

On Oct. 16, Dr. Stephen Boudreau, medical examiner and lab director at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences Montgomery Medical Laboratory, explained findings from the autopsies performed on each of the three victims, including wounds and toxicology reports.

Boudreau identified a single, fatal bullet wound found on Smith’s head.

“The entry wound was in the right side of the head,” Boudreau said, noting the bullet was recovered in the “musculature of the left cheek.”

Gilmore was found to have wounds from possibly three shots, including a “graze wound” on his left arm, wounds from a bullet entering his neck and exiting his chest and a fatal wound at the center of his chest, Boudreau explained.

“It would have been rapidly fatal,” Boudreau said of the center-chest wound. “He would have died very fast.”

Cumberland suffered wounds from multiple bullets as well. Boudreau noted one bullet that traveled “straight across” the middle of Cumberland’s body, entering on the left, traveling through the lungs and aorta and exiting on the right. Another entered his arm and “went downward and broke the bones in the forearm,” Boudreau explained. A final wound was made to his head from a bullet that “went through the skull and brain,” Boudreau said.

Prompted by both the prosecution and the defense, Boudreau stressed that he was not able to determine the positioning of the victims when they were shot nor the order of the shots.

During questioning by the defense, Boudreau revealed toxicology reports from the victims showed traces of alcohol and drugs.

Cumberland returned a blood alcohol level of .04, a “very small amount of alcohol”, Boudreau said. Additionally, amphetamine and an “inactive metabolite of cocaine” were found in his system.

“It does indicate that he had taken cocaine,” Boudreau said, but he added there was no cocaine left in his system.

While Smith tested negative for drugs, his toxicology report found “drinking alcohol” in his system. A sample taken from eye fluid revealed an alcohol level of .319, which Boudreau said is likely close to his blood alcohol level at the time of death.

Gilmore’s toxicology report returned no evidence of alcohol, but identified metabolites from cocaine and marijuana in his system.

Boudreau said while the toxicology reports indicate the presence of drugs and alcohol, he could not determine when they were consumed no the effects they had on the individual victims.

Witness testimony is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 17.